Breastfeeding is beautiful — until it’s not, right? Despite how much we know now about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and infants, there are still a lot of opinions about how women should feed their babies. From where they should do it to how they should do it to how long they should do it, there are a lot of people who think they know what’s best when it comes to the breast.
But a new photo series by the now-famous Abbie Fox of Foxy Photography, based out of Las Vegas, Nevada is showcasing the beauty of extended breastfeeding and shattering stereotypes that suggest nursing past the age of 1 is “creepy” or “weird.”
Just like anything else, breastfeeding past age 1 is a personal choice that can only be made between a mother and her child — and that’s a beautiful thing.
The mothers who chose to take part in Fox’s photo shoot all had different reasons for showcasing what extended breastfeeding is really like — from the pride in making it through a difficult breastfeeding journey to simply wanting to show the world that extended breastfeeding is completely normal.
“I wanted to do this shoot because it’s been such a monumental time in my life,” explains Ali Brinkerhoff Ortiz. “I have an older son who I wasn’t able to successfully breastfeed, and the fact that I am able to nourish my twins from my own body at the same time, making it to beyond a year, I’m mind blown. I want moms to realize one experience doesn’t dictate the rest of your experiences, and every child/pregnancy is different! I wanted to freeze this in time and cherish it forever.”
For Cora Lee Tyler, her breastfeeding journey was inspired by her 2½-year-old son, who was born prematurely at 32 weeks. After beginning his life with a feeding tube of breast milk, Tyler’s son was able to continue nursing, even through her next pregnancy. The proud mother is now tandem breastfeeding and says she will cherish the memories of this fleeting time in her life.
“I want to be able to forever look at that,” she notes. “They grow up far too fast and I wish I had pictures done of my now 11-year-old nursing when she was 3 years old.”
Tandem nursing is actually more common than some people might realize. As Katrina Judd points out, while breastfeeding is so supported by medical experts, there is still a stigma associated with nursing past a certain age (usually age 1).
“As much as breastfeeding is advocated, at a certain point, outsiders start judging,” she says. “The questions started when my first son was around 7 months old. The benefits of breast milk don’t diminish over time. It’s up to every woman, in her unique situation, to do what is best for her child(ren) in all areas, including feeding. I will nurse my sons until it no longer works for us. I will also continue to support other moms who nourish their little ones in whatever ways they accomplish that. Motherhood is hard enough without turning it into a competition.”
A month ago, Mirelys Jimenez was told that she needed to stop breastfeeding her 18-month-old by health professionals who claimed that it was no longer beneficial and that her body was rejecting it because she has a galactocele — but the dedicated mother isn’t buying it.
“I hope this photograph inspires more moms to continue nursing regardless of their child’s age because it is still beneficial to their babes,” she explains.
For Bethany Kincaid Slippery, breastfeeding was not an easy road. Slippery calls herself the “poster child” for just about everything that could go wrong with nursing — from latch issues and a high needs infant to oversupply, overactive letdown, weekly-recurring mastitis for the first 7 months, to postpartum depression and anxiety. But the new mother notes that her struggles are her reality. By sharing them (and the fact that they are still going strong), she can show other mothers that they aren’t alone.
“It isn’t always ‘two weeks of sore nipples’ and poof! Rainbows and sunshine,” Slippery explains. “This photo shoot is to commemorate the struggles and achievements I’ve experienced in the last 15 months of exclusively breastfeeding on demand. Hopefully through photo shoots and testimonials like these, we can inspire more women to feel empowered to nurse their children, and to do so without fear of being shamed and degraded by society.”
Brandi Bailey has been breastfeeding for the past two-and-a-half years and is proud of how long she and her son have been able to nurse, despite a lot of negativity from others.
“From the start of our journey we have had critics on everything, from feeding on demand to nursing past the age of 1. I hope this shoot helps not only nursing moms but everyone in general see how natural breastfeeding is,” she says of her decision to be part of the shoot.
Every mother who makes the decision along with her child(ren) to continue breastfeeding past the age of 1 or to tandem nurse has her own reasons. It’s important to remember that those reasons have nothing to do with anyone else. Breastfeeding, for many mothers, is an important way to provide for their children, nourish them, and stay connected. No matter what that looks like, it’s always a beautiful thing.
“I’m the first in my family to ever breastfeed, so I have taken breastfeeding my children as an opportunity to educate my family and friends and expose them to how natural and normal breastfeeding really is,” adds Alexis Cano Morales. “Although breastfeeding has come along with struggles — like tongue ties and negative comments from others — breastfeeding has given me a stronger backbone and has actually helped me feel more confident.”